It is hard to believe that a year has gone by since the last Global Gaming Expo. Last year, I previewed three games that were on display - Cincinnati Stud, Six Card Poker and Money Market. To date, one of those (Six Card Poker) has had some success while the other two continue to try and make inroads into the casino. As I've written many times, no one can guarantee the success of a game. It is far easier to predict failure. This is because some attributes of a game are likely to result in the game failing and because 99+% of all games developed fail.
Because of the extensive analysis and development work that I do with Shuffle Master, I often get to provide a preview of their games to Gaming Today readers. This year is no different. I have been told that Shuffle Master will be showcasing both existing successful games, such as Ultimate Texas Hold'em and Mississippi Stud and some very new games like House Money (both Blackjack and Baccarat versions), 6-Card Fortune Pai Gow, Raise It Up, Straight Jack Progressive, Face Up Stud Poker and Free bet Blackjack. I can't cover all of these games in detail in this column, but I'll do my best to give a little synopsis of each.
House Money - I've written about this game twice in the past few months. Obviously, I'm not the only one who thinks this game is a winner. This week, House Money Blackjack won an award as the Best Table Game Product or Innovation as determined by Global Gaming Business magazine. It is a very simple blackjack sidebet, but with a twist. If you are dealt a Pair, a 2-Card Straight or a 2-Card Straight Flush, you win. Now you have the option to add your winnings to your base blackjack wager. So, if you're dealt a Pair of 10's looking into a Dealer 6, you can add your winnings to your base wager and take home even more money. A similar concept has been developed for Baccarat, but here you win if the Player or the Banker hand is dealt a Pair, and even more if both are dealt Pairs. You may then take your winnings and place it on the Banker or Player hand - your choice - regardless of how you played your original wager. So, if you originally bet Player and the Banker is dealt a Pair of 9's and the Player is dealt a Pair of Jacks, you can STILL take your winnings and put in on the Banker hand - which has already won the hand!
6-Card Fortune Pai Gow - Have you ever found the House Way to be confusing at Pai Gow? Well, those days are gone. In this version of the popular game, the Player and the Dealer each get 6 cards to make a 5-card hand and a 1-card hand. The Dealer CANNOT break apart any sets (i.e. Pairs, Trips) unless he has 2 Three of a Kinds, a Straight, a Flush or a Straight Flush. Also, the Player does not LOSE all 1-card hand ties with the house. It is Pai Gow but even simpler.
Straight Jack Progressive - This is another blackjack sidebet, but with a Progressive payout. If your first 2-cards form a 2-card Straight, you win. You win more if your third card continues the Straight. If you get dealt a 6-card Straight (A-2-3-4-5-6) you can win a jackpot. If at any point, your 'hit' card causes the Straight to end, you still win for the longest straight you were dealt, even if the hit card causes you to bust (but the bust card CANNOT extend the Straight).
Free Bet Blackjack- A new version of blackjack that utilizes the Push 22 rule from Blackjack Switch. Here you have the opportunity to get certain splits and double downs for free (no additional wagers required to play them).
Raise It Up - A little like Let It Ride with some Ultimate Texas Hold'em sprinkled in. This is a 6-card poker paytable game. You combine your 3 cards with three community cards. You're not playing against the Dealer, only a paytable. You win with a Pair of 10's or better.
Face Up Stud Poker - A whole new concept for a table game. You get to see the ENTIRE hand of the Dealer, but only a portion of your own. Based on your partial hand, do you think you can beat the Dealer's hand? If he's got a weak hand, the chances are far greater, so the payout is lower. If you can beat a strong hand, you can win a lot of money on a single hand - 8 to 1 for beating Trips; 50 to 1 for beating a Flush, etc...
If you make it to the show, I strongly suggest you stop by the Shuffle Master booth and give these games a try. I find the only way to get a good sense of a game is to sit and play a dozen or two hands. I'm looking forward to playing these and also wandering around the rest of the Sands Convention Center in search of the next big casino game - almost sounds like a reality tv show, doesn't it? If you see anything that you find interesting, shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know where I can find it.